Hardy Chicago: A Rose by Any Other Name...

This fig is rooted in a 4x9 treepot container. It is highly-regarded throughout most of the fig community, with even Ross Raddi singing its praises. This will be shipped on a Monday to ensure as best I can that your product does not spend the weekend in a hot warehouse somewhere.

Before it was known as Chicago Hardy, it went by many names, including Mt. Etna, Marseilles Black or Black Greek, but no one knows what name it originally went by. There appear to be many different-named varieties that all seem to share common genetics to the point they are likely to be considered synonyms of one-another. In the search for a Mediterranean origin for this fig -- afterall, the one place we know it didn’t originate is Chicago! -- some of the names it has enjoyed include: Takoma Violet, Gino’s Black, Maryland Berry, Zingarella, Rossi Dark, Keddie, Malta Black, Spanish Unknown, Dark Portuguese, Salem Dark, Black Bethlehem, Papa John, St Rita, Danny’s Delight, Hardy Hartford, and Black Provence.

One place this fig can be traced to is Mt Etna, Sicily where it is known as Mongibello, beautiful mountain, presumably combining the Sicilian Mungibeddu with the Italian Montebello but many other locations have been found as well. It seems for many generations of humans, this fig was a key, domesticated staple taken wherever these tribes’ journeys would take them.

This is a controversial opinion, widely-contested. The claim is not that all Mt. Etna’s are exactly the same fig, but they are all so similar as to be nearly indistinguishable. This is an opinion expressed by Bill Hankin, who literally wrote the book on figs that are popular in Australia; this opinion is shared by Tony at, Ross Raddi, as well as a laundry list of folks at Figs4Fun and GardenWeb/Houzz. There is a search for this variety’s origins on GardenWeb that goes back 15 years minimum! The conclusion? Mount Etna types are a closely-related group of figs that are nearly-indistinguishable. Despite this hot-take, the one thing pretty much everyone can agree on: this is a must-have fig, whatever the heck you want to call it.

This fig is popular for use as a cold-hardy rootstock for its dwarf habit. In smaller yards, this can be a desirable trait but, while this can be useful, it does a disservice to the amazing taste of the Chicago Hardy which is easily a top 10 fig. Chicago Hardy is often very underestimated in the fig community, forgotten about in favor of whatever big name cultivar is the flavor of the month.

Fig flavors are often described as sugar, honey, or berry. Of those three, Chicago Hardy is easily a berry fig, but that doesn’t quit encapsulate the truth either. Chicago Hardy is a lot closer to a wine flavor than it is a berry, in a very pleasing, unexpected way. There is also an incredible aftertaste that lingers in your mouth for minutes after eating it. Chicago Hardy has retaken its throne as high king of the boozy dwarves: move over, Tyrion Lannister! (No, seriously though, did you see what they did to season 8?)

Each fig is rather petite, only around 10 grams for a good-sized Chicago Hardy fig but you won’t be disappointed since this tree is a prolific producer. Where you might limit yourself to one fig of a larger type, you can enjoy three or more of these without any guilt at all. This is a light and refreshing fig. Where with some rich figs you might struggle to eat more than one, you can pop these into your mouth like potato chips again and again.

This fig may take a few years to establish and produce high quality fruit. Early crops can be a bit tasteless and mealy, but is well-worth the wait for better fruit! Not only a reliable producer once established, but you will have a delicate strawberry-flavored fig very early into the season as well.

Sun requirement: Full sun

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